Posts Tagged 2015

Senator Jake Corman and Representative Bryan Cutler to headline Quarterly Briefing


pennsylvania leadership conferencePennsylvania Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman and State House Majority Whip Bryan Cutler will headline the June 29th Quarterly Briefing presented by the Pennsylvania Leadership Council from 9 A.M. until 11:00 A.M. at the PMA Building, 225 State Street, Harrisburg, PA.
With the constitutional deadline for adopting the state budget just two days away, the June 29th briefing will afford attendees an inside glimpse at the progress (or lack thereof) of the state budget process by key leaders in the senate and the house.

Both Senator Corman and Representative Cutler have spoken in the past at the annual Pennsylvania Leadership Conference. There are parts of a new team of leaders in the general assembly fighting the massive tax and spending increases proposed by Governor Tom Wolf.

In addition to remarks by Senator Corman and Representative Cutler, the PLC Quarterly Briefing will also include a panel presentation on the state budget and related policy issues.  Moderated by Lowman Henry, Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute, the panel will include presentations by David Taylor, President of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association; Gene Barr, President of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business & Industry; Matthew Brouillette, President of the Commonwealth Foundation and Kevin Shivers, Executive State Director of the National Federation of Independent Business.

A question and answer period will follow the panel presentation.

Attendees are asked to arrive early and be seated by 9 A.M. as Senator Corman will be the first speaker and is on a tight time schedule due to budget negotiations.

There is no charge to attend the PLC Quarterly Briefing, but advance registration is required.

Please REGISTER TODAY at www.paleadershipconference.org.

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This Week on Lincoln Radio Journal: House Rejects Wolf Budget


Radio Program Schedule for the week of June 6, 2015 – June 12, 2015

This week on Lincoln Radio Journal:

  • Eric Boehm has news headlines from PAIndependent.com
  • David Taylor of the PA Manufacturers Association and Matthew Brouillette of the Commonwealth Foundation have a Capitol Watch update on the state budget process
  • Lowman Henry has a Town Hall Commentary on why the Pennsylvania delegation would play a king maker role in a brokered GOP Presidential Nominating Convention

This week on American Radio Journal:

  • Lowman Henry talks with Dr. Tom Stossel of the American Enterprise Institute about how government regulations are stifling the development of new medical treatments and technologies
  • Andy Roth of the Club for Growth has the Real Story on Congress’ busy summer agenda
  • Rob Nicoletti joins Eric Boehm for a Watchdog Radio Report on new EPA regulations on the use of ethanol
  • Colin Hanna of Let Freedom Ring, USA has an American Radio Journal commentary on the redefinition of marriage

Visit the program web sites for more information about air times. There, you can also stream live or listen to past programs!

http://www.lincolnradiojournal.com

http://www.americanradiojournal.com

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PA Business Leaders Reject Wolf Tax Plans


The Governor of Pennsylvania decided to use his perceived electoral mandate to take on one of the biggest issues that has confronted and confounded the commonwealth for decades: property tax reform.  So he advanced a plan that would raise sales and personal income taxes in exchange for a cut in property taxes.

Sound familiar?  The year was 1989 and the Governor was Robert P. Casey whose tax reform plan was put on a statewide ballot referendum and was soundly defeated by voters.  Fast forward to 2015 and Governor Tom Wolf has placed on the table a property tax reform plan that strongly resembles the doomed Casey proposal. Except the Wolf plan doesn’t even include the dollar for dollar reductions required of the Casey effort.

As despised as property taxes are, and polling consistently finds the levy to be the most disliked, finding an acceptable alternative remains elusive.  The Wolf plan appears to have little support in the General Assembly; in fact House Republicans have passed their own proposal.  But it too fails to totally eliminate school property taxes leaving the door open for millage rates to simply increase again over time.

An indication of how unpopular the Wolf tax reform plan is can be found in the recent Keystone Business Climate Survey of business owners and chief executive officers conducted by the Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research.  Nearly 70% of the business leaders said the Wolf property tax shift would result in only a temporary drop in property taxes which would then go back up.  Another 14% predicted his plan would actually lead to property tax increases; only 15% expect to see property taxes decline under the Wolf proposal.

Not only does the poll demonstrate disapproval of the Wolf property tax plan, but the survey found the biggest six month decline in business climate optimism since the onset of the Great Recession in 2008.  In fact, in the 20 year history of the poll only during that recession and in the aftermath of the 2001 terrorist attacks has business climate optimism dropped so far so fast.

Last September, for the first time since George W. Bush was re-elected in 2004, more business leaders said the state’s economic climate had improved that felt it had gotten worse.  The indicator rose into positive territory by just 1%, but it capped a steady move in a positive direction.  All of that has changed.  The number of owners/CEOs saying business conditions have improved over the past six months has fallen to just 13%, while the number saying business conditions have gotten worse has nearly doubled since last Fall.

The only variable to change during that six month period was the election of Governor Tom Wolf.  Governor Tom Corbett left office with a 52% job approval rating.  Governor Tom Wolf’s first job approval test yielded just 15% approval with 69% of the state’s business leaders saying they disapprove of the job he is doing.

Driving the dour mood among the people who actually run businesses – big and small – is a general disapproval of Governor Wolf’s budget proposals.  A total of 78% disapprove of his proposed budget.  Overall 80% say the governor’s proposed state budget will harm the state’s business climate.  As a side note, Pennsylvania’s high tax rates and stringent regulatory policies are viewed by the owners/CEOs as the biggest impediments to conducting business in the commonwealth.  They now fear that situation is about to get even worse so the state’s job creators are bracing themselves for higher taxes.

Overall the survey results represent a sound and complete repudiation of Governor Tom Wolf’s first proposed state budget along with the major revisions and tax hikes contained within the proposal.  Like Governor Casey before him, his ambitious tax reform plans are deeply unpopular and may be destined for the same fate.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.  His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolnisntitute.org)

Permission to reprint is granted provide author and affiliation are cited.

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This Week on Lincoln Radio Journal: Chris Nicholas on Election ’15


Radio Program Schedule for the week of May 16, 2015 – May 22, 2015

This week on Lincoln Radio Journal:

  • Eric Boehm has news headlines from PAIndependent.com
  • Lowman Henry talks with Chris Nicholas of the Pennsylvania Business Council about the upcoming Primary Election
  • Joe Geiger of the First Nonprofit Foundation has Alexy Posner from the I M Able Foundation in the Community Benefit Spotlight
  • Beth Anne Mumford of Americans for Prosperity-PA has a Lincoln Radio Journal commentary on the impact of raising the minimum wage

This week on American Radio Journal:

  • Lowman Henry talks with Don Boudreaux of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University about myths and reality of free trade agreements
  • Andy Roth of the Club for Growth has the Real Story on U.S. Senate maneuvering over fast track authority for the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership
  • Eric Boehm is joined by Josh Peterson for a Watchdog Radio Report on the court ruling stopping collection of telephone data
  • Colin Hanna of Let Freedom Ring, USA has an American Radio Journal commentary on Hillary Clinton and transparency

Visit the program web sites for more information about air times. There, you can also stream live or listen to past programs!

http://www.lincolnradiojournal.com

http://www.americanradiojournal.com

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Time to Move the PA Presidential Primary


The 2016 Presidential race has officially begun.  Over the past couple of weeks Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Hillary Clinton have formally announced their candidacies. The field of Republican candidates likely will total a dozen or more.  Hillary Clinton’s early stumbles make the entry of former Virginia Senator Jim Webb and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley more likely.

With no incumbent president in the race, voters in both the Republican and Democratic primaries will actually have a choice in 2016.  It is a contest voters in Pennsylvania will likely watch from the sidelines.  By the time our state’s late April primary is held results of primaries and caucuses elsewhere will have determined the eventual nominees.

Only one time in recent years, 2008, has the Pennsylvania primary actually mattered.  That year Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama battled for the Democratic nomination until June before Mrs. Clinton conceded.  Democrats had a choice, but John McCain had been ordained the GOP nominee months earlier.

Every four years the debate begins anew about Pennsylvania’s lack of clout in the presidential nominating process owing to the lateness of its primary.  And, every four years absolutely nothing is done to correct the problem.

Pennsylvania is the sixth largest state in the nation.  More so than perhaps any other state we are a microcosm of the nation as a whole.  With Philadelphia we have a large eastern city, while Pittsburgh has more of a mid-western orientation.  We have large, thriving suburbs and expansive rural areas.  Our population is diverse. Statewide elections in Pennsylvania tend to be competitive with both parties having shown recent success.

An early primary in Pennsylvania would be a much more accurate indicator of voter preference than Iowa or New Hampshire which are smaller and less diverse.  Those two states lead off the balloting in late January.  February 2nd is shaping up as a mini “Super Tuesday” with New York, Minnesota, Colorado and Utah holding primaries on that date.  It would be an ideal time for primary voters in Penn’s Woods to go to the polls and give us a real say in the nomination process. Instead, nearly three more months and 24 other states will hold primaries or caucuses before Pennsylvanians vote. All of this means Keystone state voters will have virtually no say in which candidates the parties nominate.

Making matters worse, Pennsylvania’s presidential primaries are essentially beauty contests in that the outcome of the balloting has little or no impact on the selection of delegates to the party nomination conventions.  Delegates are selected in separate elections, and/or by party state committees meaning presidential candidates must line up slates of delegate candidates months before the primary. This is a process they tend to by-pass in favor of focusing their efforts on the early primary and caucus states.

Moving Pennsylvania’s primary to an earlier date poses a logistical challenge.  It would require holding a separate primary in February for presidential balloting and a regular primary in May for selecting congressional and legislative nominees. Or, the entire process could be moved from April to February. Holding two primaries would increase costs, while holding congressional and legislative elections in February would advance the start of the process into the previous year’s holiday season.

The cost of an additional primary must be weighed against the economic benefits it would generate.  New Hampshire public radio, based on a study of the 2000 presidential primary when both party nominations were up for grabs, estimated the economic impact at $230 million. The economic benefits to Pennsylvania, a much larger state, would be significantly higher.

Dollars aside, the major drawback to Pennsylvania’s late presidential primary is the absence of our voters having any real say in the selection of party nominees.  We are a large state and we deserve better, but it is a problem nobody in Harrisburg seems willing to address.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.  His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited

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Educating to Opportunity


Democrats, legislatively decimated but flush with executive power, have decided to make increased spending on public education the centerpiece of their domestic agenda for 2015.  The issue feeds a key political base – the entrenched education establishment, primarily public sector labor unions – and has a mom and apple pie appeal to voters, especially independent voters.

President Barack Obama recently unveiled a plan to provide every American who wants one a “free” two-year community college degree.  Free, in this instance, comes with a $60 billion price tag for taxpayers.  At the state level, incoming Governor Tom Wolf has pledged to restore non-existent public education spending cuts to sate the financial appetites of the state teachers’ union which backed him in the last election.

The problem is this policy push is focusing on the wrong aspect of public education.  Rather than debating spending increases, we should be asking: what are we getting for the money we already spend?

The answer: not enough.

Despite the fact spending on K-12 public education has increased at more than double the rate of inflation for decades, test scores uniformly reveal no corresponding improvement in student performance.  Here in Penn’s Woods, a failure to address what everybody but the labor unions understand is a public pension crisis has resulted in any new revenue being sucked up to fulfill pension obligations leaving virtually no new money available to actually benefit students.

Taxpayers, still struggling to shake off the effects of the Great Recession, are understandably demanding more accountability for the substantial chunk of their income already forcibly taken from them so they can continue to own their own homes.  There is reluctance, if not an inability, for many working families and senior citizen households to pay more, especially when outcomes are not improving.

Worse, public education today has become so disconnected from the real world it is failing to educate students for the openings that await them in the job market.  This “skills gap” is striking.  According to a 2014 report by Byron Pitts on the CBS program 60 Minutes, more than three million jobs in this nation are unfilled because employers cannot find employees with the needed skills.  Over 500,000 of those jobs are family sustaining, well-paid manufacturing jobs with benefits.  The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia found one in three manufacturers in its region faced a labor shortage because of what it termed a “mismatch of skills.”

Who is to blame for this “mismatch of skills” and public education’s collective failure to educate to opportunity?  The short answer is everyone.  That is because the focus has been almost exclusively on funding rather than on the core reason why we have public education in the first place, which is to equip students to successfully earn a living.

Among those who are focused on the problem is Dr. Vince Bertram. A former teacher, principal and school superintendent he today heads a nonprofit organization called Project Lead the Way.  During a recent interview on American Radio Journal Dr. Bertram advocated for a renewed emphasis in our public schools on the so-called STEM subjects: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.  These are the skills students lack coming out of both high school – and all too often the nation’s colleges and universities – with the core skills needed to be hired and trained for today’s more highly technical jobs.

Unfortunately, both President Obama and Governor-elect Wolf remain mired in the politics of the past.  Simply advocating more spending will not solve the problem.  Instead of fighting to feed entrenched political interests effective leadership would engage all the stake-holders in the education process, from taxpayers to labor unions to educators, in reinventing public education to meet the needs of both students and employers.

Nothing less than the future health of our nation’s economy and the well-being of the next generation of Americans are at stake.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.  His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitutue.org.)

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.

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When Gridlock is Good


At both the state and national levels voters have opted to put into place divided government with Democrats in charge of the executive branch and Republicans holding large majorities in the legislative branch.  The differences between the two are stark and deeply ideological.  This leaves very little room for compromise and suggests a two-year period of gridlock lies ahead.

If so, it will reflect the will of the electorate.  The recent election was not about finding common ground, it was about changing course.   In the last six years voters nationally have twice elected Barack Obama to the presidency, while delivering one or both houses of the congress to Republicans.  Government, like the electorate, is deeply divided.  That is not a negative; it means our system of representative government is actually working and is reflective of the nation at-large.

Given the Leftward bias of the mainstream news media we can expect coverage over the next two years to be heavily slanted in favor of President Obama and incoming Governor Tom Wolf.  This despite the fact neither can claim a mandate. Barack Obama’s party has lost over 70 congressional seats during his terms of office.  He himself said his policies were on the ballot.  They were and voters soundly rejected them.  Governor-elect Wolf won the “anybody-but-Tom Corbett” election even while voters sent enhanced Republican majorities to each chamber of the General Assembly.

Executives get to set the agenda so both President Obama and Governor Wolf will push their respective policies – while congress and the state legislature reject them and offer their own paths forward.  This will inevitably give rise to a spate of headlines and editorials lamenting the “obstructionist” Republicans standing in the way of the Left’s version of progress.

But stand in the way is exactly what Republicans should do.  At the national level it would be a mistake to interpret the election results as voter desire for compromise.  The campaigns, especially for U.S. Senate seats, were clear, as was the voters’ rejection of the Obama agenda.  At the state level, polling revealed years ago the voters’ desire to replace Tom Corbett.  It didn’t matter who, or what issues the Democratic nominee ran on, voters were not going to re-elect the incumbent.

To effectively counter Democrats and their allies in the news media, Republicans are going to have to up their game.  GOP congressional leadership in recent years has been mediocre at best, inept and ineffective at its worse.  With majorities in both chambers the time has come for Republicans to put forth a proactive agenda to solving the nation’s problems, pass it, and put it on the president’s desk.  If the president opts to use his veto, so be it.  Republicans could then enter the 2016 election cycle having done their job and with a clear message to put before voters.

Meanwhile, back in Penn’s Woods, the gridlock which gripped state government during four years of total Republican control can only be expected to get worse.  To capture his party’s nomination Tom Wolf had to move far to the Left to eclipse such ultra-liberals as Allyson Schwartz and Rob McCord.  This leaves him little room within which to maneuver.   Republicans increased their majorities in both the House and Senate; then elected new leadership in both chambers far more conservative than the ones they replaced.  Those legislators cannot give into the Wolf policy agenda without betraying the voters who elected them.

So what should Republicans do?  As saying goes: “Dance with the one who brought you.”  Stay true to the party’s principles. Resist the urge to compromise just to silence media critics. And, put forth workable pro-growth policy solutions to the problems that confront our state and nation.  The president and the governor may or may not go along, but passing the wrong policies just for the sake of passing something will long term do nothing to restore our state and nation.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.  His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

 

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.

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